Internationalization

Korea Cup & Sprint 2017 – The Review

The 2nd Korea Autumn Racing Carnival took place at Seoul Racecourse over the weekend. There’s no need to re-tell what happened here as pleasingly, the race has received plenty of international coverage, save to say that Yutaka Take guided Graceful Leap to victory in the Sprint while in the Cup, London Town downed last year’s winner Chrysolite to make it a Japanese one-two.

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London Town and Chrysolite dominated for Japan in the Korea Cup (Pic: Ross Holburt)

On the track, London Town was simply sensational. He came in having broken the 1700M track record at Sapporo less than a month ago and absolutely dominated the Cup, taking well over a second off the Seoul 1800M track record in the process. Last year’s winner Chrysolite had absolutely no answer. That said, the Japanese pair finished a full 17-lengths clear of Papa Shot in 3rd and demonstrated just how good JRA horses, even those not quite at the very top, really are.

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London Town in the Korea Cup Parade Ring (Pic: KRA)

Graceful Leap’s Sprint win was naturally less emphatic but it was still convincing. Korean Triple Crown winner Power Blade ran a huge race in 2nd place and while he was never likely to be as inconvenienced as some others by the wide draw, one can’t help but wonder whether he would have got much closer had he been able to begin from a more favourable gate. Doraonpogyeongseon ran on very nicely too proving himself a real racehorse. In the Cup for Korea, while Champ Line put in a good run, ultimately it was all about Triple Nine as it so often is. He and Power Blade have turned into such good ambassadors for Korean racing that how to replace them when their powers begin to wane is starting to be an issue. But of course, that’s part of what makes racing so fascinating.

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Graceful Leap and Yutaka Take cross the line in the Sprint (Pic: KRA)

The performances of the two American-trained horses was one of the Carnical’s highlights. In the Sprint, The Truth Or Else was drawn in gate 1 but jockey Dylan Davis was forced off the rail and went wide to find a run. He closed very strongly for 4th place and a tidy prize that fully vindicated the decision of his enterprising connections to bring him. Trainer Kenny McPeek was a boisterous presence throughout the week and led his charge in the parade ring himself prior to the race. Picking up an even tidier prize was Papa Shot, 3rd in the Cup despite having to recover from some interference four furlongs out.

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Take returns to scale (Pic: Ross Holburt)

McPeek estimated that The Truth Or Else would be ranked around 20th in terms of sprinters in the United States and one wonders what one ranked even higher could achieve especially as the nature of the Sprint makes it by no means a race that JRA horses will automatically dominate. As for Papa Shot, he’s a very solid horse but no superstar but looks the kind of horse you’d love to own. Bill Nader, representing the man who does own him, Barry K. Schwartz, made the point before the race that Papa Shot had run at all sorts of tracks in the US and almost always gave a good account of himself. Those tough and grinding types can find their reward on the Seoul sand and while at 1800M, it would take something special to beat a JRA horse or a Hong Kong galloper that gets on with the track, a really top American horse might just be able to do it.

One disappointing note was the performances of the Hong Kong horses. With the races being beamed live to a busy Sha Tin, it was a pity that neither Lucky Year nor Circuit Land made any impact in the Sprint and Cup respectively. Circuit Land perhaps had some excuses having been prominent early but was then forced to check with four furlongs to go as a result of a poorly judged manouevre by Lee Chan Ho on Dynamic Jilju. However, Papa Shot was also disadvantaged by that incident and overcame it and jockey Nash Rawiller admitted his mount never really looked to be in the hunt. Meanwhile, Lucky Year didn’t get the start he needed and once the sand started flying, his race was over.

However, Super Jockey won the Sprint last year and both Circuit Land and Lucky Year appeared to pull up fine so hopefully the races will still prove attractive to Hong Kong connections in 2018.

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Graceful Leap (Pic: Ross Holburt)

It was tough too for the French contingent. City Money unfortunately was scratched from the Sprint after picking up an injury between the airport and the racecourse on his way in. Meanwhile Skiperia and Nimr found life difficult in the Cup although Nimr’s 6th was by no means a bad performance. The enthusiasm that all connected with the horses brought, as well as the always jovial presence of “France Sire” providing coverage was a big enhancement to the weekthe always jovial presence of “France Sire” providing coverage was a big enhancement to the week and hopefully more French challengers will return in future.

Promising young Singapore-based trainer James Peters brought across Wimbledon for the China Horse Club. After showing prominently early on under Daniel Moor, he faded in the closing stages but reportedly pulled up fine.

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One thing that is evident is that despite being in just its second year, the Carnival is already establishing itself as an event in its own right to the extent that what happens in the actual races becomes almost secondary. Everyone knows about the track surface by now – it is what it is – and the atmosphere surrounding the whole week was extremely positive.  The travelling international press corps was larger than last year and within Korea, cable network KBS N Sports broadcast highlights of the races in a 75 minute show at 10pm on the day of the race and then repeated it in primetime at 8:20pm on Monday night. There is a feelgood environment about the event that is perhaps only possible with a relatively young race, enthusiastic connections and still a sense of the huge potential that could be realised in future years. That Keeneland go out on a limb to sponsor the race right on the very eve of one of their biggest and most important sales of the year, perhaps demonstrates this.

On to attendance and turnover.  Attendance was actually down on last year but there is a good reason for that. In 2016, the Korean “Chuseok” Thanksgiving holiday – one of only two weekends of the year with no racing – immediately followed the Carnival. Attendance always shows a spike prior to dark weeks as there is no opportunity for a legal punt for the next 12 days. As it was 39,910 paid ($2 each) to come through the gates at Seoul Racecourse on Sunday compared with in excess of 44,000 last year.

Wagering turnover on the day was also down but interestingly, both Cup and Sprint showed slight increases. The Sprint handled 4.37 Billion Won in 2016 to 4.39 Billion Won this time while the Cup went from 4.8 Billion Won last year to 5.12 Billion Won in 2017 and followed the regular pattern of turnover getting bigger as the day progresses (for obvious reasons, turnover on the final race of the day is always the biggest). Local punters find it very hard to handicap international races due to the form being hard to assess but with more familiarity, it appears Korean racegoers are now prepared to have a go.

Internationally, both races were simulcasted by the Hong Kong Jockey Club and by Sky Racing in Australia. The Singapore Turf Club took the Sprint as did Malaysia while the entire day was available for betting at the Macau Jockey Club. In the USA, Sky Racing World distributed every race to  ADW’s. TVG Network broadcast both Sprint and Cup. Overall international turnover slightly exceeded domestic turnover (Hong Kong obviously accounting for the vast majority). Dubai Racing TV also screened both big races live.

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Laboum in the winner’s circle (Pic: Ross Holburt)

This is Korea. There needs to be progress year on year. Local assessments will probably focus on the dominance of the Japanese runners and that one fewer country was represented than in its inaugural year (the USA joined but the UK and Dubai didn’t send any runners this time). However, that should be countered by the sheer quality of London Town’s performance and also by the positive showing by the US runners. There’s a year to go until the next Carnival. The Korea Cup & Sprint have not yet come of age, but they are very much on the right course.

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Silver Wolf Wins Ttukseom Cup While Last-Gasp Doraonpogyeongseon Claims SBS Sports Sprint

Sunday was a big day of Group race action at Seoul and it ended with Silver Wolf taking the Black Type win in the Ttukseom Cup followed by Doraonpogyeongseon getting the best of the tightest of three-way finishes to the SBS Sports Sprint.

Silver Wolf (Orotorio) started as second-favourite for the Group 2 Ttukseom Cup, the first leg of the Queens’ Tour that will decide the year’s champion filly or mare, and she and the one ahead of her in the market, Haeya, turned things into a two-horse race as they entered the straight.

As it turned out, Silver Wolf was just too strong, gaining the upper hand just over half a furlong out and running on to win by two lengths. Gaenari came home in 3rd just ahead of the fast finishing Gold Blue.

Australian bred Silver Wolf was a A$40,000 purchase from the Magic Millions Gold Coast Yearling Sale in 2014. She finished 4th in this race last year and today was making just her second start of 2017. In total it was her 6th win on her 15th career start. It was a first Korean group race victory for Serbian jockey Djordje Perovic and another milestone in his burgeoning partnership with trainer Song Moon Gil (of Clean Up Joy fame).

One race later was the Group 3 SBS Sports Sprint. Punters ignored most local pundits and sent off Japanese visitor Party Dress off as the favourite ahead of 2015 Asia Challenge Cup winner Choegang Schiller and Success Story, who won the first leg of the Sprint Series, the Busan Ilbo Cup, at Busan last month.

It wasn’t to be for the Japanese pair, with neither Party Dress nor Kimon Avalon being involved and coming home in 8th and 12th respectively. Not was it for Success Story who showed early but weakened to 7th. Instead, it was 60/1 outsider Parang Juuibo who looked like he was about to produce a shock upset as having always been close to the speed, he struck the front just over a furlong out and kept on going.

He came so close. Choegang Schiller flew home in pursuit under Perovic on the outside but in between them came Doraonpogyeongseon. The line arrived with all three together but the photo showed the narrowest of narrow wins for the 4-year-old Doraonpogyeongseon.

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Doraonpogyeongseon’s (centre) nose is just in front on the line

The game Parang Juuibo clung on to 2nd ahead of Choegang Schiller. A full four-lengths behind, 90/1 outsider Best Guy brought home the rest.

Doraonpogyeongseon [Kantharos – Smartybegone (Smarty Jones)] was a US$50,000 purchase from the OBS Spring sale of 2-year-olds at Ocala in 2015. It was the four-year-old’s 13th career start and his 7th win. Trained by Min Jang Ki, he’s a stablemate of Success Story. For jockey Ham Wan Sik, it was a successful return to Seoul where he rode Clean Up Joy to win the Grand Prix Stakes last December.

“Doraon” means “Again” or “Return Of” while “Pogyeongseon” was the name of a horse who ran in Korea in the 1980s, winning the Grand Prix Stakes in 1985 and 1986.  That was held at Ttukseom. Maybe someday, there will need to be a Doraon Silver Wolf, or even a Doraon Doraonpogyeongseon.

How they finished:

Ttukseom Cup (KOR G2) 1400M – Seoul Racecourse – June 4, 2017

1. Silver Wolf (AUS) [Orotorio – Ready For More (More Than Ready)] – Djordje Perovic – 4.6, 1.7
2. Haeya (USA) [Flatter – Luxaholic (Macho Uno)] – You Hyun Myung – 1.3
3. Gaenari (CAN) [Philanthropist – Happy To Be Home (Langfuhr)] – Lee Hyeon Jong – 5.2
Distances: 0.75 lengths / 8 lengths
Also Ran: 4. Gold Blue (JPN) 5. Mighty Gem (USA) 6. Indian Star (KOR) 7. Holiday Dream (USA) 8. Supreme Magic (USA) 9. Bear Queen Trophy (USA) 10. Hidden Indian (USA)

SBS Sports Sprint (KOR G3) 1200M – Seoul Racecourse – June 4, 2017

1. Doraonpogyeongseon (USA) [Kantharos – Smartybegone (Smarty Jones)] – Ham Wan Sik – 10.2, 1.8
2. Parang Juuibo (USA) [With Distinction – Spicy Souffle (French Deputy)] – Lee Hyeon Jong – 15.7
3. Choegang Schiller (USA) [Artie Schiller – Changeable (Miswaki)] – Djordje Perovic – 1.5
Distance: Nose / Nose
Also Ran: 4. Best Guy (KOR) 5. Perdido Pomeroy (USA) 6. Dynamic Jilju (USA) 7. Success Story (KOR) 8. Party Dress (JPN) 9. Geuma Rapid (AUS) 10. Always Winner (KOR) 11. Wonder Bolt (USA) 12. Kimon Avalon (JPN) 13. Choegangja (USA)

Turkey Cup, SLTC, CHIA Trophies Headline Day 1 Of Seoul International Weekend

It’s 60 years since South Korea and Turkey established diplomatic relations and to mark that, the Turkey Cup is one of three big races Day 1 on Saturday of the first of two International weekends at Seoul Racecourse this year (11 races from 10:45 to 18:00). 

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Flags fly at a previous Turkey Cup day

In additional to the Turkey Cup, there are also the annual exchange races with the Selangor Turf Club and China Horse Industry Association. English racecards are here. Here are notes on the four key races:

Race 7: Class 4 (1200M) “Cargill Agri Purina” / Handicap / KRW 60 Million / 15:35

1. CHARISMA QUEEN – Started to get the hang of this level in her latest two. Led last time but did fade to 5th.

2. TOUR ROSE – Since a 7th place on debut, she’s never been any worse than 2nd. Comprehensive class and distance winner last start, she’s very much the one to beat here.

3. SAEJAE SARANG – Surprise class and distance winner in February, he’s not shown many signs of following up in three efforts since.

4. DRAGON VILLAGE – Generally beats a few but generally finishes behind a few more. Outsider.

5. MAMBO CHEONHA – Comes in off three consecutive 6th place finishes and hasn’t achieved any better than that in six attempts at this class.

6. NEONEUN ACE – The main danger to the favourite, he enters off back to back 2nd place finishes. Runs best when on the early speed and another 2nd is more than possible.

7. JAMNYONG – Slightly disappointing 4th when well backed on May 7th. Generally runs on though and is in the placing frame here. (more…)

Curtain Closes On Landmark Dubai Carnival

Had we been told before the 2017 Godolphin Mile that Triple Nine would ultimately finish just one place behind pre-race favourite North America, we may have been very excited. Well that’s what ultimately happened. That North America weakened to finish at the back of the main group with Triple Nine, for whom it proved a race too far, many lengths further adrift, might have been disappointing but does nothing to detract from what was a wonderful Carnival from a Korean perspective.

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Triple Nine at the Godolphin Mile (Screengrab from Dubai Racing TV)

Naturally, there are a bucket load of excuses that could be put forward for why Triple Nine didn’t do himself anything like justice (wrong trip, bad draw, muddy track of the type he lost to Beolmaui Kkum on last year, tired after a long campaign and so on and so forth) but it doesn’t really matter. It’s racing. It happens.

As it was, the closest Triple Nine came to a win ay Meydan was his first appearance on January 19th, when he closed strongly but just a little late to run 2nd to Hunting Ground over 2000M. The gutsy Triple Crown winner Power Blade landed consecutive 3rd places over a mile and 1900M before the pair of them both ran 5th in their respective Group races on Super Saturday.

Then, of course, there was Main Stay. He and Seoul Bullet both lined up for the 1200M Dirt Handicap on January 19th and for the first time there was real pressure not only to perform well but to actually win the race. As Dubai Racing TV pointed out as the horses came out onto the track “this race really is the Koreans’ to lose”. Seoul Bullet was slow out of the gate but ran on for 4th but Main Stay made no mistake. The race was won with a furlong to go and Terry Spargo’s “Chalk one up for Korea” call has been played at Seoul & Busan Racecourses every week since.

Seoul Bullet would pull up lame and play no further part in the Carnival as indeed would Main Stay after his second run three weeks later.

While Main Stay gets to go down in the history books, arguably the most significant result was that achieved by Diferent Dimension when he defied odds of 33/1 to come 3rd over a mile on turf on February 11th.

It was the first time for a Korean horse to run on turf at the Carnival and the race was well received back home not only because of the result but also for the way the horses ran tightly together as opposed to the wide margins on dirt. Plans are at an advanced stage for a turf track to be installed alongside the sand one at Seoul Racecourse and if the project is to be successful,  a substantial shift in mindset among horsemen in Korea in going ot be required. Actual proof that a Korea-trained (albeit by an Australian) horse can run well on turf is surely the best way to start that process.

Korea’s runners at this year’s Carnival were made possible by the performance of Success Story last year, his pair of 3rd places giving courage to owners and trainers. The unique nature of the Carnival also makes it ideal for a nation wishing to develop its racing, such as Korea. The horses get to spend a number of months in Dubai as do the grooms and workriders. They get to work alongside local grooms and riders and train alongside horses from all over the world providing an opportunity both to observe and to learn. Top international jockeys ride the horses – this year Ireland’s Pat Cosgrave handled the bulk of riding duties of the Korean string and a fine job he did too, both in work and in the races; his exhausting ride in Power Blade’s second outing standing out.

That regular Carnival races are competitive but not overwhelming also gives encouragement. The most exciting thing now is to see who emerges as a contender to make the trip in 2018.

Korea’s results at the 2017 Dubai World Cup Carnival:

Triple Nine
1/19: 2000M (Dirt) – 2nd
2/9: 2000M (Dirt) – 4th
3/4: 2000M (Dirt – G1) – 5th
3/25: 1600M Godolphin Mile (Dirt – G2) – 11th

Power Blade
1/12: 1600M (Dirt) – 3rd
2/2: 1900M (Dirt) – 3rd
3/4: 1600M (Dirt – G3) – 5th

Main Stay
1/19: 1200M (Dirt) – 1st
2/11: 1200M (Dirt) – 4th

Diferent Dimension
1/12: 1600M (Dirt) – 7th
2/11: 1600M (Turf) – 3rd
2/16: 1600M (Dirt) – 7th

Seoul Bullet
1/19: 1200M (Dirt) – 4th

Triple Nine, Seoul Bullet & Main Stay All Go At Meydan Thursday

It was Power Blade and Diferent Dimension last week, this time it’s the turn of rest of the Korean stable at the 2017 Dubai World Cup Carnival to make their Meydan debuts. Triple Nine, Seoul Bullet and Main Stay will all run at the Carnival meeting on Thursday evening (early Friday in Korea).

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Triple Nine is among the Korea contingent going at Meydan Thursday night (Pic: Alex Cairns/The Winning Post)

Triple Nine will take part in the 2000M race 4 while Main Stay and Seoul Bullet will try their luck at 1200M in race 6. Pat Cosgrave, who rode Power Blade to 3rd place last week, partners both Triple Nine and Main Stay while Tadhg O’Shea will ride Seoul Bullet.

Race 4 (20:15): Meydan Sobha – 2000M Handicap – USD 125,000

 

As it was for Power Blade last week, Triple Nine’s race looks very competitive. The trouble is that as joint top-rated, he will be carrying 60kg which is 1.5kg more than he has ever carried in an actual race and 3kg heavier than he has won at in Korea. Nevertheless, Triple Nine remains a best-priced 5/1 2nd-favorite with most odds-makers. Favourite with those same odds-makers is Godolphin’s Fog Of War who hasn’t raced since September 2015 but there’s little to choose between a whole host of them. Munaaser won this race last year but doesn’t enter in tremendous form. The Mikael Barzalona ridden Hunting Ground is sure to be well backed as is Doug Watson’s Etijaah.

Race 6 (21:25): District One – 1200M Handicap – USD 125,000

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Race 6 is a similarly tricky puzzle. Both Korea-trained horses carry light weights in what doesn’t look a very intimidating field. Main Stay defeated Seoul Bullet over 1400M at Busan last month although the latter did stumble coming out of the gate. The Sweden-trained Giftorm is currently favourite having performed creditably at Meydan last year and winning a Swedish G3 in the Spring. The rest don’t appear to have a lot of solid recent form to go on although Shaishee, Indianapolis and Spirit Quartz have all recorded decent times, if not finishes, so at the strong risk of tempting fate, if there is a solid pace, the Korean-pair have a chance.

For those watching from Korea, it will be a late night with race 4 set for 1:15am Seoul time and race 6 coming under orders at 2.25am.

Holland To Return / Havlik, Sanna Licensed / Belli Extended / Park Geum Man Retires

There’s news on the overseas jockey front with three new additions to the licensed ranks from the start of this month.

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Darryll Holland was most recently in Korea to ride in the Keeneland Korea Cup in September (Pic: Ross Holburt)

Darryll Holland, who enjoyed a successful spell at Busan a couple of years ago, returns to the south coast on a four-month initial license. He’ll be joined by Italian Mirko Sanna. Meanwhile at Seoul, Jan Havlik is set to join. The Slovakian is set to renew his rivalry with Djordje Perovic with whom he has reportedly regularly competed with across Europe. Meanwhile, Marcello Belli has come to the end of his initial four months and has been renewed for a further six:

Name/Nationality Racecourse Type License Period
Jan Havlik (Slovakia) Seoul New
(4 months)
2016/12/01
– 2017/03/31
Mirko Sanna (Italy) Busan New
(4 months)
2016/12/01
– 2017/03/31
Darryll Holland (UK) Busan New
(4 months)
2016/12/01
– 2017/03/31
Marcello Belli (Italy) Seoul Extension
(6 months)
2016/12/01
– 2017/05/31

Jan Havlik (42) turned professional in 1994 and in addition to his native Slovakia, has ridden in many countries across Europe for in excess of 300 career winners. He will be based at Seoul Racecourse.

Mirko Sanna (32) is from Italy. He began race riding in 2000 and has been primarily based in Italy but has also ridden in Malaysia, Australia, Germany, France and most recently in Canada. He will ride at Busan Racecourse.

Darryll Holland (44) is a former Champion Apprentice in the United Kingdom. He returns to Busan Racecourse where he rode 66 winners from 350 mounts between February 2013 and June 2014.

Marcello Belli (44) has been licensed at Seoul Racecourse since August 2016. The Italian jockey has ridden 4 winners from 88 mounts and his license has been extended for a further 6 months.

In other jockey news, 2010 Korean Derby winning jockey Park Geum Man has opted to turn in his license. The 37-year-old debuted when Busan Racecourse opened in 2005 and rode 270 winners from just under 3000 career rides. His license expired at the end of November and he didn’t request a renewal.

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Cheonnyeon Daero and Park Geum Man win the 2010 Derby (Pic: Ross Holburt)

Park had a relatively slow start to his career but under the guidance of trainer Peter Wolsley developed into, for a time, one of the top riders at Busan. His biggest win came on Cheonnyeon Daero in the 2010 Derby and he would go on to win the Busan Owners’ Cup on the same horse later that year. His other two group race wins both came in 2012 on Gyeongbudaero in the 2012 KRA Cup Mile and on Yapung in the Breeders’ Cup.

Korea Owned J.S. Choice Set For BC Juvenile Turf

It looks like J.S. Choice will run in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf this coming Friday. The Todd Pletcher trained colt is owned by none other than the Korea Racing Authority Stud Farm.

I’m not going to claim this news sets the pulse racing to any great extent although the Korea Racing Authority and the racing media in Korea seem to be quite excited about it and there will be a sizable Korean contingent at Santa Anita to watch him. However, ultimately he’s an American horse, who has never set hoof in Korea, trained by an American trainer running in an American race ridden and will be ridden by an American jockey (Kent Desormeaux).

That’s not his fault though and he looks to be a promising horse. J.S. Choice has raced three times so far and having been 5th on his debut at Saratoga in August, he came back out at the same track to win at the second time of asking on September 5. He was then entered for the Group 3 Pilgrim Stakes at Belmont on October 1st and ran 2nd (albeit quite well beaten by Oscar Performance who also runs on Friday) and this has proven enough to allow him to take his chance at Santa Anita.

The experiment is not without merit and is not purely a vanity project. The idea is that he was purchased in the sales having been selected for potential value by the KRA’s “K-Nicks” database and then sent to a top American trainer. He will do his racing in the United States and will then be retired for Stud duties in Korea. Interestingly, he has done his racing on Turf and with the KRA serious about installing a turf track at Seoul – something that would arguably be the biggest development in racing history here and on which work has already begun – stallions who have demonstrated ability on the surface are going to be required and the Authority, Korean horsemen and also punters will all need to become familiar with racing on a surface that was meant to be raced on.

J.S. Choice [Congrats – Oil Empress (Empire Maker)] is named with a nod to 2007 Korean Triple Crown winner J.S. Hold. He runs in the Group 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf at Santa Anita on Friday November 4th with an expected morning line of 20/1. I haven’t quite decided if I’ll be setting my alarm for what will be early Saturday Seoul time, but I do really hope he does well.